Catching the train to Kandy from Colombo was an experience in itself. First, let me give you a quick run down on the transport over here.
Public transport in Sri Lanka is dirt cheap and actually pretty well distributed. To give you an idea, city buses are around 10-20c, while an unreserved, second class inter-city train ticket to Kandy from Colombo (3 hours) cost us a little under $2.
There’s generally three classes to Sri Lankan trains. First class, which is air-conditioned and allows you to reserve a seat; second class, which isn’t at all that flash but less crowded; and third class, which isn’t flash and is so crowded that people are almost overflowing out of the train’s open doors.
Now, reserved seating can be bought 45 days in advance so there is never any reserved seats available. What this means is that you have to buy an unreserved ticket on the day and run like a racehorse to secure a seat once the train arrives, otherwise you’re standing, not to mention cramped. As there’s so many people catching the train this is actually pretty nerve-racking. People are almost knocking each other over, some even jumping onto the moving train, frantically trying to secure a seat. It’s madness!
Before our train arrived, Anita and I formed a plan. I would cart our heavy bags on board while Anita was free to sprint for a seat. We positioned ourselves in an optimal spot on the platform where our second class carriage would arrive and waited anxiously. As the train rolled in and people scurried towards the edge of the platform, we noticed we’d actually positioned ourselves in the wrong spot! As Anita side-stepped eager travellers like a world-class winger, I lost sight of her in the madness, only to climb aboard to find her sitting comfortably in a seat for two. You bloody legend.
The majority of the train trip from Colombo to Kandy isn’t all that scenic, but as you come in to Kandy the impressive views take over. Rolling green hills and tin shed houses as far as the eye can see. We even saw monkeys in the trees along the train line. We arrived in Kandy, caught a tuk tuk to our hostel to dump off our stuff, then headed back into town for the annual Kandy Esala Perahera.
The Esala Perahera is one of the oldest Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, commemorating the first teaching given by Buddha after he attained enlightenment. The parade is full of music, dancing, fire juggling and beautifully decorated elephants. It’s a pretty incredible sight, although we didn’t really like the way the elephants were treated.
The following day we spent walking the town, circling the Bogambara Lake and of course, experiencing the local cuisine. We also managed to try wood-apple juice, a popular fruit drink in Sri Lanka. The fruit actually looks like a rotten orange, but the flavour is quite nice. It’s somewhere between pear and orange, guava or apple juice. It’s quite unique.
That evening we took it pretty easy; grabbed some dinner, took a walk, then stretched up for the sprint to our train carriage leaving for Hatton the following day, where we would be climbing the 2,243m Adam’s Peak.